to download the podcast show in iTunes!
[caption id="attachment_2475" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Jim Bowman's 1968 Camaro racing in the early 1970's at Laguna Seca."]
Jim Bowman is this week's podcast guest, and his story about his "comeback" Camaro is an incredible one. In 1969 Jim was a college student in California and he and his classmates decided to build a race car to compete in Trans Am racing. They knew nothing about Trans Am racing, had no experience in road course racing, and had no race car, but why let those little obstacles hold you up, right?
Since the first obvious step was to find a race car they started to scour the papers for good candidate. They located a 1-year old Camaro for $350 that seemed too good to be true, and it was. The Camaro they found was a '68 Z/28 that had been stolen previously, and the only thing that was returned to the owner was the shell itself. The owner wanted it out of his driveway, pronto, and a deal was struck. With no front clip, so subframe, and no drivetrain they purchased the car and then bought another $350 worth of parts from the junk yard to make one total Camaro, sans the drivetrain. A 302 was purchased via a newspaper ad, and one of Jim's fellow students ponied up the 4-speed Muncie in his personal car. Jim was student teaching at the time as well, and his high school students helped get everything on the car buttoned up. Wa-la, a race car was born!
[caption id="attachment_2482" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Jim's High School shop students with the Camaro."]
The next task on the list was to go to driving school and get an SCCA license. They all loaded up the Camaro and headed to the track....only to find out that the Camaro they built was a rolling deathtrap. It couldn't turn, stop, or really do anything right. To top that off, it was a rainy weekend and since no one had the foresight (or cash) to bring a set of rain tires they ended up stealing the tires off of the pickup that they used to pull the Camaro to the track. The school instructors took pity on Jim and his classmates because while they knew the Camaro was a wreck waiting to happen, they couldn't get over their never-say-die attitude. They brought in a professional racer to give them some pointers and to help them get the Camaro sorted out. Jim stated that he drove it around the track, which had 11 turns, and he spun it 12 times.
Things did work out though and the Camaro did ran a few races with a professional driver, and then later with Jim. He campaigned the car for a few years and his high school students kept involved in a big way. By the mid 1970's though the decision to sell the car was made, and Jim would not see the car again for over 30 years. Since Jim hangs out with racers quite a bit, they were constantly asking him about the whereabouts of the car. He finally had one of them do a little snooping, and it turned out that the person who bought the car from Jim still had it! Jim drove down to see it, but he and his wife (mostly his wife) made it clear that the car would not be purchased. After Jim saw the car he just couldn't believe it, and even though he and his wife had agreed not to purchase it he couldn't help but ask if it was for sale. Turns out it was, for the EXACT same price that he had sold it for! His wife couldn't believe it either and wrote the check herself.
[caption id="attachment_2483" align="aligncenter" width="431" caption="The Camaro lives!"]
Today the car is in the restoration planning stages, and Jim's old high school students have come out of the woodwork to help! It will be restored back to it's state when Jim raced it, and will even feature the same 302 and 4-speed that Jim had raced in it. He had pulled the engine and transmission before he sold it, and still had it! His high school students, who are all now grown, have already purchased the front chin spoiler. Just like it did back in the day it will have the words "Powered By: Monterey High School
" prominently displayed.
Jim is now semi-retired and operates Bowman Racing, a company that sells dirt track racing parts out of Oceanside Speedway. If you're ever in the area, just stop by as he and his wife are there every Friday night! Way to go, Jim. Thanks for being a racer, and thanks even more for sharing your love of cars with generations.
Bowman Racing can be contacted at email@example.com
to download the podcast show in iTunes!
Robert Kibbe | TheMuscleCarPlace.com